Saladin founded his khānqāh a hospice known as the Saʿīd al-Su ʿadāʾ or al-Íalā ªīya– in 569/1173 in order to house Sufis newly arrived in Cairo. He built it in the heart of the city and funded it with an endowment (waqf) to ensure that it would continue to provide a home for Sufis long after he had passed away.1 But the Saʿīd al-Su ʿadāʾ did not simply house itinerant Sufis. Saladin also created a stipendiary position (man‚ib) at the top of the hierarchy of the khānqāh’s organisation, known as the shaykh al-shuyūkh (literally ‘the master of masters’, hereafter ‘Chief Sufi’). This office was a kind of Sufi counterpart to that of the Chief Judge (qā∂ī al-qu āt). The Chief Sufi was supposed to mentor the Sufis of the khānqāh and to act as a liaison between the ruling elite and local communities of Sufis in Egypt and Greater Syria. Theoretically, then, the authority of the Chief Sufi was geographically coterminous with Ayyubid rule itself. In reality it did not work so neatly.
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